In honor of Mother’s Day on Saturday night, my husband, Tim, and I went to see the world premier of Mom! The Musical at the Ames Performing Arts Center. It was great! We laughed, we got teary eyed, we marveled at the talent and all they could do with a mop!
As I reflect on the poignancy of this musical, I saw again how parenting is one of the most vulnerable things we will do. Brené Brown defines vulnerability as risk, uncertainty, and emotional exposure. So, with that definition in mind, think about parenting. Vulnerability shows up from the very beginning. If you’ve been pregnant, remember that feeling of uncertainty and concern as you wondered about your growing baby (vulnerable!) Birthing a baby - that’s full force vulnerability! Leaving the hospital with a baby feels risky (vulnerable!) – I bet there’s a boatload of parents who take the slow route home from the hospital!
And it goes on – do any of these sound familiar - what do I do when my preschooler clings to my leg at daycare drop off? When there is bullying? How do I send my children to school when I'm concerned about violence? When is my child ready for his/her first sleepover? What do I do when my adult child is making choices that are destructive?
Before our oldest was born a wonderful parishioner gave us a poster quoting Tomassi that said, “Making the decision to have a child - it is momentous, It is to decide to forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” Yep, sounds about right! Sounds like vulnerability. . .
. . . except sometimes we go out of our skins trying to avoid vulnerability. Brown's research shows that we move out of our authentic space when we are trying to avoid these feelings of uncertainty, risky, and emotional exposure.
When is it hardest to hear and act on Psalm 46:10, "Be still and know that I am God?"
Learning what we do when we are trying to avoid vulnerability is really helpful in parenting; because with knowledge comes power. So the invitation is to compassionately observe in ourselves what we do - do we yell more? Clean more? Binge eat? Disengage? Blame others? Control, control, control? This takes courage to see in ourselves and we aren't alone in what we do - there are lots of dedicated parents who find themselves downing a chocolate bar when they are stressed! Knowing our habits gives us knowledge to begin to change our patterns. For me, when I’m avoiding vulnerability I scour through the house looking for things to throw away; that puzzle missing a piece is on its way out, that toy truck missing a wheel stands no chance!
The thing is, vulnerability is the path between our hearts and the hearts of our children; we can’t meaningfully connect to our children without it. Whether our kids are still learning to write their names or are running a company, Brené Brown’s words on parenting from Daring Greatly can guide us, “Who we are and how we engage with the world are much stronger predictors of how our children will do than what we know about parenting."
So, the invitation is to try, circle back, try again, and know we aren't alone in figuring out how we want to show up in parenting.